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Photography Question 
Joy Fender

Camera Settings for Waterfall *and* People Shot?

I decided I would like to try to use a local waterfall as the backdrop for my Christmas photo cards this year. Besides the waterfall, I intend to pose my 2 children (ages 5 and 9) on a grouping of rocks that are in front of falls (there's approximately 20-25 feet of space between the rocks and the waterfall).

What shutter speed and aperatures would you recommend? I want to try both views of the falls: the "bridal veil" look and "stop action" look. At the same time, I want the kids to be in good clear/crisp focus. Am I asking/expecting too much?

I intend to go out to the falls alone with a big teddy bear prop (don't laugh!) ahead of time to get the camera set up without the kids. That way, I'll keep my kids' time being bored with me taking their picture to a minimum.

I plan to use my Canon G3 to do this, so my hightest aperature setting is 8.0 and the lowest is 2.0 (I think...don't have it here in front of me). I have a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000.

Can't wait to hear what some of you have to recommend.

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11/2/2003 3:55:16 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Hi Joy,

Your proposed cards sound like a great idea. What you are hoping to achieve is quite possible if you have manual control capabilities on your camera. Since I am unfamiliar with the Canon G3, I cannot advise you on specific settings. I can, however, provide you with some of the technical data you will need to understand.

The human eye sees motion at around 1/60 second. Any speed slower than that will cause the water to blur. Obviously,...the longer you expose the scene, the more pronounced the effect. Your shutter speed setting should be based upon the available light, and your desired effect. I've used speeds from 1/8 second to 1 second most frequently for large falls on cloudy days. (It is important to shoot the motion shots on overcast days to allow for the longer exposure times and to avoid over-exposing the bright areas of the falls....And, don't forget the tripod!)

To freeze the action of the falls, 1/125 or higher is recommended.

It's a good idea to take the test shots first, and examine the effects before you include your kids in the foreground.

Hope this helps.

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11/3/2003 5:01:21 AM

Joy Fender   Thanks Bob! Yes, that's exactly the type of information I was looking for. My G3 does have manual controls. I will probably set the TV mode to various shutter speeds and let camera choose the aperature until I get the effect I'm looking for.

Now that I've seen your explanation, I feel the "bridal veil" effect may not be a reasonable thing to try to achieve as my children may not cooperate and sit still long enough for those extended length shutter speeds. That's precisely what I was wondering about.

The area where these falls are located is very wooded and even on a sunny day is quite shaded (even now in the late fall). Thanks for the info regarding how a cloudy day will work to my advantage.

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11/3/2003 6:45:44 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/28/2002
  I suggest that you see if you can get the effect that you want with 1/4 or 1/2 second shutter speed. With this slow shutter speed, your camera may give you an overexposure error. If I am not mistaken, your G3 has neutral density filter feature that will cut down the amount of light entering the lens. Try to use that and see if you can achieve at least 1/4 or 1/2 second exposure.

Of course, if you can get the children to sit still longer than 1/4 or 1/2 second each shot, the better. The problem is how to get them to cooperate. I have been taken posed Christmas photos for my nieces and nephews (age 1 to 8) for the past years. A trick I used to get them to cooperate is to let them in for the action. I set up the camera so that they can see through the viewfinder, take pictures of each other (sometimes I don't put the film in the camera) or even me (I got a few good self portrait this way). After letting them to have some fun, they will most likely to cooperate. Works for me every time. Since you have a digital camera, you can delete those unwanted picture afterward.

Hope this helps.

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11/3/2003 7:25:48 PM

Michael McCook
Contact Michael
Michael's Gallery
  I have another suggestion you may not have thought about. If you are fairly proficient with a photo-editing program which uses layers (like Photoshop) you can mount your camera on a tripod and make various exposures of the falls for the effect you want, with and without the children. Then layer and blend the images to get just the look you want.

Try making seperate exposures for the highlights and then the shadows and also shots of the children. With a little digital magic you can get the effect you want and perfect exposure for the entire image. Just remember in order for this to work, you must not move the camera position once you've started a series.

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11/21/2003 8:45:09 PM

Joy Fender   Michael,

You've giving something interesting to try! I'm just getting the hang of Photoshop. I'm post-poning this particular shoot until next spring. In the mean time I hope get much more proficient with PS and will attempt what you describe here!


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11/22/2003 5:12:40 AM

Michael McCook
Contact Michael
Michael's Gallery
  My pleasure. Good luck.

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11/22/2003 8:13:04 AM

Artur    Hi Joy, try to use camera night portrait mode on overcast day.
It will set slow shutter speed to blur your background waterfall and fire a flash that will freeze the kids.
Or in manual mode set camera to TV time priority to 1/15 or 1/8 of a second and force flash. You may also adjust +-EV on flash to balance picture or just vary the distance from kids. You must use a tripod.

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11/24/2003 10:13:48 AM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2003
You have the same name as my daughter! The Canon G3 is a great camera and is capable of doing what you want. My suggestion is not to worry about the 'bridal veil' effect of the waterfall. Your childern are the subject of your portrait, not the waterfall. Use a wide aperture like f2.8 or f4 and let the waterfall go out of focus. This will maximize your shutter speed, focus attention on your children, and soften the waterfall by creating a 'soft focus' effect on the background. I believe that this technique will result in the most appealing portrait of your chilren. Good luck!
God Bless,

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11/25/2003 8:35:19 PM

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